NAGPRA summer training helps fill a national gap

Nagpra Instep

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is hosting the second annual Intensive NAGPRA Summer Training & Education Program (INSTEP) in June, an effort designed to help mitigate a nationwide lack of training opportunities. New regulations regarding NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) went into effect in January, making this year’s training more important than ever. 

“Training in and around the subject of NAGPRA is notoriously lacking in most academic anthropology programs and even tribal communities,” said Krystiana Krupa, NAGPRA Program Officer at Illinois. “The major goal of INSTEP is to develop accessible, consistently available training for anthropologists and NAGPRA practitioners.”

Krupa, who is based in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Illinois, collaborated with the Indiana University NAGPRA office on development of the INSTEP pilot program, held in Bloomington in July 2023. Forty-five people attended the pilot, which provided step-by-step guidance regarding consultation, documentation, repatriation and reburial, and managing inadvertent discoveries. Programming included Indigenous presenters from archaeology, museum, anthropology and tribal government perspectives.

“INSTEP ends up being as much about building relationships and trust as it is about sharing best practices.” — Krystiana Krupa, NAGPRA Program Officer at Illinois

The INSTEP Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students; university professionals such as postdoctoral researchers, staff, and faculty; Federal and State agency employees; and tribal practitioners and employees.

“INSTEP ends up being as much about building relationships and trust as it is about sharing best practices,” Krupa said. “For this reason, in-person programming is much more effective than online educational opportunities, and we enthusiastically encourage applicants from all areas of life (not just current students) to help us learn best practices from one another.”

This year’s INSTEP will be similar to the pilot, with a focus on areas of ethical concern surrounding research, teaching, curation, and other aspects of working with tribal nations and their Ancestors. Krupa said training areas will include topics such as strategies for NAGPRA documentation in the laboratory/curation space; understanding cultural affiliation to contemporary tribal communities; cultural sensitivity protocols; working with tribal governments; the effects of anthropological collecting and intergenerational trauma; and collaborative research practices.

The Illinois-Indiana team is in the process of applying for NEH funding to extend the program for an additional three years (2025-2027). 

“Fulfilling our NAGPRA responsibilities calls for strong collaboration with others beyond our campus, sharing knowledge and resources, and widening the circle of qualified NAGPRA practitioners,” said Susan Martinis, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. “I’m incredibly proud of our NAGPRA office for proactively building relationships and helping to move our nation closer to meaningful progress on this critical issue.”

May 29, 2024